Next weekend, teams of sailors will race into Hempstead Harbor to the finish line of the 43rd annual Around Long Island Regatta. The three-day-long race, sponsored by the Sea Cliff Yacht Club, is designed for sailors of all skill levels, with 10 divisions. There are crews of weekend cruisers, blue-water competitors, academy teams and even a junior’s division sailing along a nearly 200 nautical mile course.
The event kicks off on July 24 from New York Harbor, with stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and Jersey City. Crowds ashore and on board the Willie Wall Bar will be treated to a performance from a NYFD Fireboat, which will shoot colorful streams of water into the sky, before the race begins.
From New York Harbor, racers will head east past Brooklyn and Long Island’s South Shore, before winding around Montauk, across Gardiner’s Bay, and then into the Long Island Sound, before ending in Sea Cliff. The harbor start is challenging and prepares the crews as they head for the Verrazano Narrows and into the Atlantic Ocean. As they come around Long Island, some boats choose the shortest distance, due east, hugging the shore, while others opt for deeper water in search of stronger wind.
After rounding the South Fork, sailors judge the wind, tides and current as they head northwest to Plum Gut, where they enter the Long Island Sound. For the final leg, the crews rely on reading wind shifts and currents in order to cross the finish line in Hempstead Harbor with the quickest time.
Frank Braynard, of Sea Cliff, launched the first Around Long Island Regatta. He was the architect of “Operation Sail ’76,” which commemorated the 200th birthday of the United States with boating spectacles and fireworks in New York Harbor. By the year 1999 the race was attracting close to 200 competitors to the start at Richmond County Yacht Club in Staten Island and finished at The Breakwater in Hempstead Harbor.
In the past the course was approximately 198 miles in length. The race could be sailed in as few as 53 hours, or three days. Today, with a slightly shorter course of 190 miles, the fastest boats finish in less than 20 hours, but some still manage to stretch it over a three-day period. At the finish line is a wonderful awards party, hosted by the Sea Cliff Yacht Club, that includes a mouth-watering feast of food and drink.
Last year the Kramer and Rasweiler families, of Glen Cove, recorded the finishing times of the teams from aboard Breathless. Cherise Kramer and her family are members of the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. They aren’t sailors, but as boaters they enjoy the camaraderie the sport inspires among coastal communities, especially during the regatta.
“To watch this event is the coolest thing ever,” Kramer said. “At the end of it, the sailors are battered, they’re coming in from the cold, but the triumph on their faces is so nice to see.”